Skip to content


Sound familiar?  If you’re having trouble remembering information, sometimes it’s best to get back to basics.  What is memory, anyway?  How does it work?  This is a little information on how your brain works.  Understanding how your brain works may help you understand how to best use it!

Sensory Memory

Contains everything that you touch, see, hear, taste, or smell
Information is held here for .75 seconds. 

Short Term Memory

Contains seven (plus or minus two) pieces of information at a time.
Information is held here 18-20 seconds.

Long Term Memory

Contains any information that has been practiced, is used frequently, or is otherwise significant.
Information is held here indefinitely. 

Memory Storage

  • Most sensory memory is forgotten immediately.

  • Attention determines if information makes it to the short term memory.  Attention can be voluntary or involuntary.

  • Storage in long term memory usually requires one or more of the following:

    • Rehearsal or practice

    • Visual associations, such as diagrams or patterns

    • Frequent or long term application, such as works skills

    • Emotional associations, such as joy or grief

    • Mnemonics

Information is any data that enters the sensory system and is stored in short or long term memory.

Thinking is making use of that information, by working with information in short term memory or retrieving information from long term memory.

How can you use this?  Well, since sensory information is only held for .75 seconds, I would recommend that you don’t smell your lessons.  Your goal is to commit information to long-term memory; you could then call it up at any point in time to analyze (learning independently…).  As you can see, committing something to memory is very similar to the process learning it!  First, you need an attention getter.  Second, you need to understand material.  Third, do it over, and over, and over!